PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE A digest of physics news items by Phillip F. Schewe, American Institut

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PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE A digest of physics news items by Phillip F. Schewe, American Institute of Physics Number 175 April 25, 1994 EXPLORING MATTER ON A SCALE OF 10**-16 CM, 1000 times smaller than the size of the proton, is possible at the HERA electron-proton collider at Hamburg, Germany. In some of the HERA interactions ("diffraction scattering") the electron merely grazes the proton, but in other interactions the electron, which is immune to the strong nuclear force, burrows deep inside the proton and scatters from individual constituent quarks or even from short-lived virtual quarks popping into existence out of the vacuum. In these violent "deep inelastic scattering" events the proton is usually shattered. Speaking at last week's American Physical Society meeting in Virginia, Allen Caldwell of Columbia University reported on a mysterious class of events recorded at the ZEUS detector at HERA that seem to be both diffractive and deep- inelastic in nature. In these events, a single high-energy quark is ejected from the target proton, indicative of deep-inelastic scattering. But the debris from what should have been a broken-up proton was nowhere to be found. Caldwell had no solid explanation for this odd behavior, but speculated that the electron might in this case be scattering from some combination of quarks or gluons within the proton. THE COSMIC X-RAY BACKGROUND (CXB), the diffuse x-ray glow spread across the sky, probably arises from discrete sources. The Japanese x-ray telescope ASCA has now resolved about 30% of the CXB into individual sources so. At the APS meeting, ASCA scientist Hajime Inoue went further and asserted that there are reasons for believing that the x-ray output of active galaxies --- the most energetic category of galaxies --- cannot account for the CXB and that most ordinary galaxies, those not previously known for their long-term x-ray emissions, probably contribute to the CXB. Indeed, an ASCA study of one such galaxy, M33, did reveal the presence of a weak central x-ray whose x-ray spectrum resembles that of active galaxies. One inference that can be drawn from this, according to Inoue, is that every galaxy may have a massive black hole at its center. THE INVENTORY OF ELEMENTS IN SUPERNOVA REMNANTS, and the structure of their progenitor stars, has been studied with ASCA by recording x-ray images that correspond to emission lines from specific hot, multi-ionized shells of matter surrounding the supernova blast. Textbook diagrams of heavy stars on the eve of a supernova explosion show concentric layers of successively heavier fusion products: carbon, oxygen, neon, silicon, sulphur, and iron piled up at the heart of a star as it runs out of nuclear fuel. The force of the subsequent supernova explosion flings the matter in these layers out into space, where the layering of the elements is somewhat retained. At the APS meeting, Robert Petre of NASA/Goddard presented separate Si, S, Fe (etc.) ASCA pictures of remnants. These illustrate that fact that some supernovas are symmetric, while others are asymmetric. For example, pictures of the Cassiopeia-A remnant reveal the material to be more ringlike than spherical, suggesting that the progenitor star had been rapidly rotating. This is borne out by separate doppler maps of different parts of the Cas-A remnant. The ASCA pictures of Cas A also show, for the first time, two different x-ray processes at work in a single supernova: x rays from specific elements (silicon and sulphur, say) in the north and east and, in the southwestern corner of the remnant, "continuum" radiation coming from the collisions between electrons and all sorts of ions.


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